'War could not kill football' read one of the banners at Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on July 29, 2007, when Iraq became Asia's best climaxing a fairytale run by winning the Asian Cup beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final.
Success came at a time when American and British soldiers had taken over the country had imploded with clashes, killings and bombings being the norm.
"It was huge. The victory unified everybody back in our country. I can never forget that mom-ent and neither can any Iraqi," said Waleed Tabra who was the media manager of the Iraq national team then and is here as the media officer of Arbil SC for their AFC Cup group league game against East Bengal on Wednesday.
Iraq are now 76th in the Fifa rankings and played the World Cup finals in 1986. They now have famous Brazilian Zico as national coach.
Tabra said domestic football was always in full swing despite all the tension.
"When we (Arbil) won the first title in 2007 the stadium was packed in the final game even though the civil war was on. Football united our country in difficult times," he told HT.